Detroit — Question: How much does or should a player’s offensive production play into his Gold Glove candidacy?
The answer probably should be little to not at all, but we all know that’s not been the case over the years. Brian Dozier was a minus-1 in defensive runs saved when he won the Gold Glove at second base in 2017, beating out Tigers’ Ian Kinsler (plus-3) and others.
Was Marcus Semien a better fielder at second baseman than Whit Merrifield in the American League last year? Metrics would say no.
This year — notice we are focusing on second basemen — Jonathan Schoop is going to provide the acid test on this debate. The Tigers’ second baseman is having a slam-dunk, Gold Glove-worthy season.
He’s also struggling through the worst offensive season of his career. His slash line reflects career lows across the board — .203/.236/.327 with a .562 OPS.
“I think Jonathan has a viable case,” Tigers skipper AJ Hinch said. “It’s a good challenge on whether it’s truly about defense or whether it’s about the total package. There has been a lot of debate over the years over how much offense plays into it.
“There are second basemen who have outperformed him offensively. But pound-for-pound, play-for-play, his defense has been remarkable.”
All Hinch can do is root for Schoop to win it, though. Managers and coaches vote on the award but they are not allowed to vote for their own player.
“It would mean a lot to me,” Schoop said. “This has been a rough season for this group and for me, too. This is my lowest offensive production but it means a lot that I didn’t let my offensive struggles carry over to my defense. I found a way to keep it separate and still go out and help my team.”
It’s hard to imagine Schoop wouldn’t be a finalist for a Gold Glove award, probably with Toronto’s Semien and Cleveland’s Andres Gimenez. Both are a plus-11 in defensive runs saved but trail Schoop by a wide margin in outs above average and runs above average.
Schoop, plus-10 in defensive runs saved, leads all players at all positions with 27 outs above average, 20 runs above average and a total defense rating of 22.2, per FanGraphs.
On the other hand, Schoop’s OPS-plus of 62 is dwarfed by Gimenez’s 146 and Semien’s 110. That isn’t supposed to matter, but it sometimes does.
“That’s why they have the Silver Slugger award,” Schoop said. “The Gold Glove is the Gold Glove. It’s not about hitting. In the past, they don’t give it to me when I hit better than any second baseman. This is the Gold Glove award — you don’t have to worry about hitting.”
Schoop said he doesn’t fully understand the fielding metrics, but he’s had enough people, teammates and players on other teams, tell him where he stands on those leaderboards.
“If you see my career, always the defense was good, always the defense was solid,” he said. “But to see in the metrics that you are really good, that’s like, ‘Oh, OK.’ Because sometimes you might think you are doing good and the computer says something different.”
Those who have watched the Tigers on a daily basis don’t need the metrics to validate Schoop’s play. Per Sports Info Solution, Schoop has saved a major league-most four runs on double-play balls this season.
“The double-play turn for Jonathan, it has to be the best in baseball,” Hinch said. “I can’t imagine there’s another second baseman with his turn and his arm strength. That’s something you see on the field more than you see it in the numbers.”
Schoop, in his 10th season, hasn’t won a Gold Glove or a Silver Slugger.
“I am proud of the way I handled my defense,” he said. “Sometimes young players, they will let their offense affect their defense. But thank God I overcame that. I played good defense and I think I showed our young guys that even if you aren’t hitting the ball, you can still go out and stay focused and do your part.”
The Tigers put pitcher Matt Manning and outfielder Kerry Carpenter on the injured list before Thursday’s game, bringing their 2022 seasons to an end.
Manning was scratched at game time from his start on Wednesday with arm fatigue and forearm tendonitis. Carpenter was shut down with a left lumbar spine strain.
Right-handed reliever Miguel Diaz was selected from Triple-A Toledo to take Manning’s place and Kody Clemens was recalled from Toledo to fill Carpenter’s spot.
Diaz, 27, pitched parts of four seasons with the Padres, including 25 games last season. He was expected to play a role for the Tigers earlier this season but got off to a rough start. He has turned things around in a big way, though, allowing one run with 25 strikeouts and one walk in his last 15 innings.
“I just stayed positive and kept working hard,” Diaz said. “I had a couple of surgeries (in 2019 and 2020) but that’s in the past. I’m healthy now and I am doing a better job.”
His fastball has hit 100 mph this season and he has a plus changeup. Toledo pitching coach Doug Bochtler helped him refashion his two-seam fastball, which has been a difference-maker for him.
“He’s got plus stuff and he’s someone who has been on the cusp of being called up a couple of different times,” Hinch said. “For one reason or another he hasn’t gotten that opportunity. But you do want to show as an organization and reward guys.
“He’s going to be a minor-league free agent so you want to make sure he knows we value him.”
The Tigers are still going to need a starting pitcher to fill Manning’s start on Monday in Seattle. With the Triple-A season over, both Bryan Garcia and Elvin Rodriguez have stayed behind and are continuing to workout with Bochtler.
One of those two will likely get the start. Hinch said he’s not sure yet who will be the 29th man and pitch one of the games of the doubleheader on Tuesday.
Carpenter makes mark
Carpenter said he felt his back lock up on him during batting practice on Wednesday.
“Thank goodness it’s nothing structural,” he said. “It’s just some fluid and inflammation in there.”
The left-handed hitting Carpenter forced his way up the club’s ladder this season, hitting 30 home runs between Double-A Erie and Toledo. And he didn’t stop hitting them, knocking six out of the park in 31 games (113 plate appearances) for the Tigers.
“He’s going to be competing for a job (next spring),” Hinch said. “He’s put himself on the map and earned his way up here. The key for him, and you’re going to hear us say this a lot, he’s got to continue to make good decisions at the plate.
“He defended himself pretty well against left-handed pitching and he can dominate right-handed pitching and the power that he has. We want to see a little more consistency.”
Carpenter also held his own defensively, which was a major concern of the Tigers when they called him up.
“It was awesome, coming up here,” he said. “I’m super thankful for that. It was a great experience and I’m excited to get to next year.”
On deck: Twins
Series: Three games at Comerica Park, Detroit
First pitch: Friday — 7:10 p.m.; Saturday — 6:10 p.m.; Sunday — 12:10 p.m.
TV/radio: All games on BSD/97.1
Probables: Friday — RHP Joe Ryan (12-8, 3.70) vs. Tyler Alexander (4-10, 4.68); Saturday — RHP Dylan Bundy (8-8, 4.93) vs. RHP Drew Hutchison (3-9, 4.54); Sunday — TBA vs. LHP Joey Wentz (2-2. 3.54)